Kid-friendly things to do near Caltrain?
November 18, 2022 9:06 PM   Subscribe

Bay Area-filter: Our preschooler is dying to take a ride on Caltrain - what should we do when we hop off (and where)?

Our preschooler loves spotting the Caltrain trains when we're out and about on the Peninsula and has been asking to take a ride. To make this more of an adventure, it would be fun to hop off somewhere and do something fun within (preschooler) walking distance of whichever station we disembark at. (We won't have a stroller - I'd say a 0.75-mile walk is probably the max.)

Any ideas for the best station to stop at, and what to do once we get off the train? We'd be getting on in Zone 2 (RWC or San Carlos) and would be up for going anywhere in Zones 1-4. Feel free to mention things that are only options on particular days (e.g., farmer's markets) - would love to hear any and all ideas.

My train-loving kiddo thanks you in advance!
posted by Synesthesia to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The Mountain View Farmer's Market is at the Caltrain Station... except during certain Sundays when the San Francisco 49ers are playing a home game at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara.

You see, there is insufficient parking and roads around Levi's Stadium, so a large number of fans use the VTA Light Rail from Mountain View to the stadium. On those game days, the parking lot is reserved for autos, and the farmer's market moves to California and Bryant street.

When the farmer's market is at the Mountain View Caltrain station, it's a delightful experience for the young, and immediately at the station, so minimal walking to get there.
posted by blob at 9:33 PM on November 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Caltrain... isn't that the one with an entire car dedicated to bikes?! If so, that might be a good place to take a peek at. It's amazing.

Take CalTrain. Transfer to the tram, yay more transportation fun! Get off at the ferry and watch the ferry. Something to look forward to for another time.
posted by aniola at 9:47 PM on November 18, 2022

Best answer: How about Central Park in San Mateo? It's a 1/2 mile walk from the San Mateo Caltrain Station - then you can ride the mini train at the park. And play at the park itself which is also fantastic. You'll be taking a train to ride another train!!!

Another train-themed adventure: The South Bay Historical Railroad Society. It's right at the Santa Clara caltrain stop and there are model trains, etc.

Apparently, there is a holiday train. This doesn't answer your question, but seems like it might be an event you'd be interested in.

Some other options that are not as good a fit, but might still be of interest for others in this age group.

If you are willing to transfer to the light rail in San Jose - Tamien, then you're two stops away via light rail from the Children's Discovery Museum

If you willing to take a bus, then you could visit the Palo Alto Junior Museum, which is delightful for that age.
posted by skunk pig at 11:23 PM on November 18, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: San Mateo has an ice rink at Central Park right now to sweeten the deal!

California Avenue has a nice park next to it with a neat car statue! There's also a small downtown area with restaurants that have outdoor seating and a great Sunday famers market if you want to try something besides Mountain View.

It's definitely a bit further but SF is worth visiting! The paths along Islais Creek are lovely and you can go look out at the bay and watch the seagulls. You can also watch the Muni trains going across the 3rd Street bridge. They make great clanking noises and I would say there's a lot of general train excitement. Spark Social is a great little food truck park with more than enough food options and they also have mini-golf!

If you're hesitant about taking a bike or stroller on the train, Caltrain is really accommodating! The conductors will let basically any reasonable wheeled vehicle into the bike car. The biggest limitation is you'll have to haul the thing up the steps on the old cars and it's a 50/50 chance whether you'll get them instead of the newer Bombardier cars which are only a couple easier steps.
posted by Brassica oleracea at 11:33 PM on November 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Central Subway project in SF has its first opening day for the public... literally today. Not often you get to see a shiny new transit line! Weekends only till January, but it starts a block from the 4th and King Caltrain station. You can take it to Yerba Buena Gardens (Children's Creativity Museum, carousel, ice skating, etc), or Chinatown, where you can walk to the Cable Car Museum, which is really neat, and free. And ride the cable cars, why not! Some decent playgrounds around, too.
posted by alexei at 1:38 AM on November 19, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The magical Kepler’s Books is one stop away, in Menlo Park. They have a nice little children’s book section. Nearby there’s a farmer’s market on Sundays.
posted by a sourceless light at 5:43 AM on November 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: California Avenue farmer's market on Sundays is right by the Cal Ave stop in Palo Alto so easy to just hop on and off. Or go all the way up to 4th & King in the city and then take the Muni metro along the Embarcadero to the Ferry Building or the Exploratorium.
posted by 4rtemis at 5:59 AM on November 19, 2022

Best answer: Seconding the Mountain View and the California Avenue farmers' markets, which are both excellent. There's also a little park with a playground the other direction from the Cal Ave farmers market (very close to train station).
posted by pinochiette at 8:39 AM on November 19, 2022

Best answer: Saturdays, you can visit the Sunnyvale farmers market. Like Mountain View's, it's right there, at the station.

Inside the old Santa Clara depot, which is usually locked up tight the South Bay Historical Railroad Society maintains a big model train layout but it's not always open, check their schedule.

Apparently, there is a holiday train.

My experience with this was underwhelming. It's decorated with lights, most of which weren't working. You can't ride it, it's only for Santa. And rather than handing out presents, on this train his goal is collecting gifts from you, for charity.
posted by Rash at 9:28 AM on November 19, 2022

Best answer: Possible ideas for Palo Alto:
-*Small* farmer's market on Saturdays
-The train platform area is cute imo (compared to, say, Broadway's) (I don't know if this is an important part of your kid's train experience)
-South of the station is the the Stanford Arboretum, Masoleum, Arizona Garden within 0.75mi
-(This is farther than the max distance you said, but from the Arizona Garden, it's ~0.25mi to the Anderson Museum (contemporary art) and Cantor (another art museum), which has an outdoor Rodin sculpture garden)
-All of these are free and open to the public
posted by typify at 2:03 PM on November 19, 2022

Best answer: This may be more of an outing than you want but:

Caltrain -> SF. From SF get on the F (the tram running older light rail cars, can be a bit crowded but is like MORE TRAIN.) Then visit the Exploritorium? (Is that preschooler fun? I think I remember liking it at that age but it was a LONG time ago.) Really there's lots of options up and down Embarcadero there.
posted by aspo at 10:53 AM on November 20, 2022

Best answer: The San Francisco station is next to a little canal with with a footbridge, houseboats and a park. Mission Bay Kid's Park is a nice looking playground next to it. There's also a library right there that probably has kid programming. The baseball stadium is also right there if he cares about that.
posted by umwelt at 4:54 PM on November 20, 2022

Response by poster: Thank you SO much, everyone - a lot of train adventures are in our future.
posted by Synesthesia at 3:02 PM on November 21, 2022

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